a little painting

i’ve got all my lines obscured, down to what i would consider ‘pencil’ strength, and not likely to be seen in the end.  so now i can start on the surface features of the head.  by this i mean the surface of the painting, which in this case is faux marble.  how do you do marbling on a surface?  there are many ways, but basically it’s one color down, another color sort of over it, and a third color for accent streaks.  jim likes to use sponges, but then jim likes to make his marbling a hell of a lot bigger than i’m making it, where the two-story column of a building is 11.6 inches long.

i thought about sponges, and stayed with the tiny brush idea until it came time to apply the paint, at which time i found my finger doing the walking.  a brush was too even, so i smeared it.  and that was good, so i started dipping my fingers in and smearing them across the surface.  first white over the buff basecoat, and then a darker brown over that.  and i can do that all day long with the three colors.  at some point it’s going to look like marble, and i’ll stop.  it looks crappy now, i know.  the middle stages always look bad.

i primed the shells this morning, and this afternoon slapped my first coat of gold paint on them.  they’re going to be brass, like the buttons on his jacket, but for now gold will do.

this evening i came across a jar of crimson red.  now, the dolphin has already been underpainted with cadmium orange hue.  for the final color, i’d been planning to put scarlet on the jacket, but the crimson made me think.  it’s so dark compared to scarlet, so much more subdued.  with the lighting and the decor at the hotel, maybe this will be better.  and then again, i can always glaze a few coats of cadmium red over the alizarin crimson if it gets too dark.  it would be better if i did that from an archival standpoint as well, because alizarin crimson is a fugitive color, and blackens over time.  so maybe i’ll incorporate both pigments into the jacket.

i put the slightly thinned paint on the dolphin using a cosmetic sponge.  pat pat pat, slap slap.  one thin coat after another.  you’re looking at two.  the other dolphins had a dozen coats each.  and not just because i kept screwing up the colors.

i remembered the name badge that my sponsors made up especially for this project.  it should probably have gone on a few days ago, but i kept waffling about the buttons, and didn’t want to be hasty.  but when i started sponging on red without having first saved the area to be painted as buttons with a mask, i figured i might as well put it on.  the spacing of the buttons isn’t going to change, so rather than trying to fit it between two buttons, i just put it on in place of a button.  it’s covered with blue tape so i don’t get paint on the nice shiny plastic surface, and i put it on with a pinch of putty.  of course, it only actually touches the dolphin in the middle – the dolphin rounds away from the flat badge on both ends, and i had to roll and smoosh tiny bits of putty under the ends and smooth it out with a wet finger and a scrapey tool

i also mixed up a nice brown, using raw umber, burnt sienna, alizarin crimzon, and zinc white.  it’s what i have.  i put this on the bookshelf, as the base layer of the wooden shelves.  i’ll go in later with lighter colors for some woodgrain, and maybe some molding details.

you can see i’m spilling paint on the base.  there’s red and orange drops and smears.  i’m not too worried about this, because i can always reprime it (not with kilz because that’s solvent based, but with white acrylic), and it’s going to be covered by collage, which i’ve been printing out a little here and there.

before i dirtied the head up with paint this afternoon, i made sure all my lines were good.  then i covered the whole head with another coat of the thin buff titanium, obscuring the lines to the point i was comfortable with.  i can just barely see them, and had to keep the marbling light so i didn’t cover over my painstaking work.

this morning while i was looking over my last day’s work to see if it still looked okay (or did the fairies mess with it while i was sleeping) i noticed that the roofline on the hat is crooked.  the hat is actually almost jaunty, almost at an angle.  it’s only very slightly off, but it’s enough to mess up the mapping.  the solution to this is to draw from both edges.  what i had done was to measure up from the bottom, all the measurements of all the lines of the top part of the building.  what i’m going to have to do is go back and redraw the topmost part of that, measuring from the top.  it’ll look much better that way.  i pretty much painted over these lines so i could do that tomorrow, or whenever i start putting the contour lines back in.  whenever i stop marbling.

the actual stone used in atlanta’s carnegie library is white georgia marble from the southern marble company in pickens county.

they tore the building down in 1977 and we’re assuming they stored the pieces at hudgins salvage.

and for the olympics in ’96, some bright person pulled it out and rebuilt the facade as a pavilion on peachtree street, the main drag.  it looks really cool, especially if you never saw the real building.  and the marble is really nice.

you’d think i would have to marble each separate stone separately.  but that’s not how it works.  i will make the whole surface marbled, and then put the lines in.  and wherever i put the lines, your eye will automatically separate out that area from the area next to it.  so it’ll end up looking like every part is separately colored, but that’s a visual trick.

the rule is to make the lines work.  if the contours are convincing, then it only takes shadows and local color to make it come to life.  but if the lines are wrong, it’ll look off no matter what else you do to it.  and on a wobbly three dimensional sculpture like this one, the lines can be seen from any angle, and look funny from most of them.  but from the sides it will be okay, and from the front it’ll make sense.  and getting it to read is the only object.  the eye will do the rest once the lines are right.

it’s got something to do with which surface your brain takes in as the defining surface.  if i painted the dolphin to look like the bushes, it would disappear in my back yard.  your eye sees what’s painted on the surface, not the object underneath the paint.  that’s why makeup works so well.  this is a really profound idea, but it’s after 5 in the morning and i’m not thinking very profoundly after all.

but when i paint it marble, you’ll see marble.  and when i paint lines on top of the marble, you’ll see a building.  the thing-in-itself is obscured and obscured again.


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